Friday, November 08, 2019

So how did the 80 Meter QRP Fox hunt go?

Quite well, actually. In fact, better than the 40 Meter hunt.

I had fears though. For 80 Meters my W3EDP is my antenna of choice. However, there is SOMETHING in the neighborhood that is giving me S9 QRN on 80 Meters with the W3EDP, right around the QRP frequencies (as luck would have it). I can hear much better with the HF9V, but I think I can be heard better when I transmit using the W3EDP.

Last night, it didn't seem to matter, though.  I was lucky enough to QSO with both foxes, even though conditions weren't the best from the beginning. Twiddling the dial, I came across the "upper fox" first.

Before I go any further, let me explain that terminology to those of you who have never taken part in a QRP Fox hunt.  The 80 Meter fox hunt playing field is from 3.550 MHz to 3.570 MHz, with the "half point marker" being 3.560 MHz, the QRP watering hole.  One fox hides in the upper half, and one in the lower half.  It's the same for the 40 Meter hunts. The "woods" are from 7.030 MHz to 7.050 MHz with 7.040 MHz being the "half point marker". One fox is the "upper fox" and one fox is the "lower fox" - or that's the way it's supposed to work. Sometimes they trick us up, or due to a DXpedition or some other thing, they may hide in the same half.

As I was saying, I was twiddling the dial and came across the "upper fox" which was Drew K9CW. He was fairly weak; and for IL to NJ on 80 Meters, I expected him to be a bit louder. I stuck with it though, and after numerous calls I finally made contact at 0226 UTC.

With over an hour left in the hunt, it was time to go look for Jim N0UR, who should be the lower fox. He WAS the lower fox, but was barely audible. That was surprising, because Jim is a lot like Todd N9NE. Whenever I hear either of them, I usually have to lower the AF Gain or they will both routinely send the ear buds rocketing out of my head. Jim started coming up and I worked him at 0235 UTC, but dang it! QSB kicked in just as I handed it back to Jim for the end of the QSO. Did he hear me? Did he ask for fills? Do I cross my fingers and hope I made it into the log? What's a hound to do?

I decided to sit there and listen for a while. As I heard other friends work Jim, eventually the string of hounds started to peter out. Around 0300 UTC or so, Jim started calling "CQ Fox" over and over and over again with no takers. Feeling pretty sure that I wasn't going to deny anyone else a QSO, I decided to go for an insurance contact.  This time at 0305 UTC, I was able to hear Jim from start to finish!

Both foxes posted their logs to the q-fox e-mail reflector this morning, and I was able to confirm I was in both their logs. The funny thing about last night is the way it ended. For most of the night, I really had to strain my ears to hear both Drew and Jim. It was pure delight when a "tuner-upper" came up on Jim's frequency while I had my AGC turned off! But for the last ten minutes or so from about 0320 to 0330 UTC, BOTH Jim and Drew came up to solid 599s. They both would have been easy pickings in the last ten minutes, but who knew the bands would change that way?

The best advice that I can give to anyone contemplating on joining in on the QRP Fox hunt fun is to work them as early as you can. If you're not sure you made it into the log, try again a second time only if the fox is lonely and is calling CQ with no takers. Sometimes there are hounds calling right up until the very end of a hunt and it's not cool to deprive someone of what may be their only chance just for your insurance QSO. That's when you just have to cross your fingers and hope for the best.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

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